Ultimate 4wd destination: Clear Lake in San Juan NF

Clear Lake is an alpine turquoise lake at an elevation of 3.653m (11,984ft) above the sea level, located in San Juan County, in the U.S. state of Colorado. Be sure to have experience in back roads if you attempt this trail. The drive is not for the faint of heart.

Clear Lake

Where is Clear Lake?

The lake is located within the San Juan National Forest, on the southwestern part of Colorado, just west of the town of Silverton, the county seat of San Juan County, to the south of South Lookout Peak.

Can you drive to Clear Lake in CO?

The road to the lake is totally unpaved and rocky. It’s called Forest Road 815 (Clear Lake Road). Starting at Forest Road 585, near South Mineral Campground, the road is 7.08km (4.4 miles) long.

Is the road to Clear Lake in Colorado challenging?

It does require a high-clearance vehicle, preferably with four-wheel drive. The road is very narrow, steep, with several tight switchbacks. It has steep drop offs that are scary for a novice. At the summit there is plenty of designated parking, so do not park on the grass.

Is the road to Clear Lake in Colorado open?

Set high in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, the road is open from late-May to late-November only. It’s one of the highest roads of Colorado.

Is Clear Lake in Colorado worth it?

Along the way there are some signs of old mining activity. It’s a favorite drive for its beauty and its gorgeous wildflower and waterfall access. It’s a hairy ascent to the magical lake in the basin above. This is not for the faint of heart. The reward at the top is worth the back-sweating and neck-craning though.

Is the road to Clear Lake in Colorado steep?

The road to the lake is very steep, hitting a 16% of maximum gradient through some of the ramps. Starting at Forest Road 585, the elevation gain is 667 meters. The average gradient is 9.42%.

Pic: Dale Hall